Screen Agers: Growing Up in the Digital Age

Join Barrack & Perelman for a special screening of Screen Agers: Growing Up in the Digital Age.

This award-winning film depicts the messy struggles that teens and parents face over social media, video games, academics, and internet addiction. Authors and scientists provide insight into how we can empower kids to best navigate the digital world and find balance.

At 7pm there will be refreshments, and the program will begin at 7:15pm.

Screening and Q&A of Trezoros- The Lost Jews of Kastoria

The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center of Philadelphia will host a screening of another important Holocaust-related film, “Trezoros – The Lost Jews of Kastoria,” coupled with a Q&A session with the filmmakers.

The story is set in the beautiful, idyllic city of Kastoria where Jews and Christians lived in harmony for over two millennia. In October of 1940 it would all be destroyed after the invasion of Greece by Axis forces. Initially occupied by Italy, the Jewish community remained safe. After Mussolini fell from power the Nazis took control of the town, dooming the community that had existed since the times of the Roman Empire. The film uses never before seen archival footage, vibrantly bringing to life just one of the many Jewish communities that had existed in Greece before the end of World War II. “Trezoros” (a Ladino/JudeoSpanish term of endearment meaning “Treasures”) is a highly emotional story told by its survivors, with interviews filmed on location in Kastoria, Thessaloniki, Athens, Tzur Moshe, Tel Aviv, Miami, Los Angeles and New York. Please join us after the screening for a dessert reception & an opportunity to speak with Larry Confino & Lawrence Russo – filmmakers of Trezoros: The Lost Jews of Kastoria. This event is presented in partnership with the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Reservations are recommended for both events by calling HAMEC at 215-464-4701or email shelley@hamec.org.

Film Chat: “The Wedding Plan”

Promoted during the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia, the film The Wedding Plan finally opened for American audiences, after having received three Ophir Awards, or Israeli Oscars. In Hebrew with English subtitles, the film was written and directed by Rama Burshtein, an Orthodox Israeli, and the creator of the award-winning 2012 film Fill the Void.

In “The Wedding Plan,” protagonist Michal is a 32-year-old religiously observant woman, who runs a mobile petting zoo. Excitedly planning for her upcoming wedding, she is shocked when her fiancé reluctantly admits that he doesn’t love her. Nevertheless, she decides to move forward with her wedding preparations, trusting that if God wants her to be married, He will find a husband for her. The wedding is scheduled for the last night of Hanukkah, leaving exactly one month for a new groom to materialize. Her family is doubtful, and even her rabbi wonders what will happen to Michal’s faith if she doesn’t find a groom under the chuppah.

An American director would have made this film into a romantic comedy, but Burshtein aimed for something deeper, more poignant. Her debut film, “Fill the Void,” is about a religious woman who must make a decision about whether or not to marry her late sister’s husband. Burshtein writes and directs stories set in the religious Jewish world, but which illuminate human emotions common to us all.

Philip Roth’s “Indignation” Now a Film: An Interview With Director James Schamus

By Lisa Grunberger (with research support by Robert G. Margolis)

“Nobody has anything to worry about from a book.” — Philip Roth, in a conversation about his novel “Indignation”

“Take care, philosophers and friends, of knowledge, and beware of martyrdom!” — Friedrich Nietzsche in “Beyond Good and Evil”

Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

I said to screenwriter and director James Schamus, as we began to discuss his directorial debut, a theatrical film version of Philip Roth’s novel Indignation: “The movie deserves the disclaimer: ‘No words by Philip Roth were harmed during the making of this movie.'” [Read more…]

An Unusual Holocaust Film

— by Ronit Treatman

The life of a Jewish dwarf who miraculously survived the Holocaust is the inspiration for a new motion picture project.

The Lilliput will illustrate how Abraham Kerber was able to defeat the odds of surviving the war by using his weaknesses as strengths. This dark fairy tale, which is being shot in Gabin and Lodz, Poland, promises to be one of the most moving new films being produced about the Holocaust.

American stage, television, and movie actor Mark Povinelli will star as “Umchik,” as Abraham was affectionately called. Povinelli was one of the seven dwarves in Mirror, Mirror, and a regular on the television show Are You There, Chelsea?  

More after the jump.
The film will take us back to Poland in 1938. Umchik survived the war by hiding in tiny places that the Nazis did not think to search. He concealed himself in garbage cans in the rail yards and underground in the sewers.

Umchik was a photographer and an ardent Zionist. His best friend was Esther, a Jewish woman who converted to Christianity to marry a gentile. Her family and community disowned her for making this choice, and Abraham remained her only friend. As the war progressed, Umchik and Esther supported and understood each other as no one else could.

When the war was over, Umchik moved to Israel. He settled in Kiryat Tivon, and worked as a journalist and photographer. He died on April 19, 1978, and was buried in Kiryat Tivon. The names of his relatives who perished in the Holocaust were etched on his tombstone. The final inscription reads, “G-d will avenge their blood.”

The script was written by filmmaker, screenwriter and producer Minna Packer. She is a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the Pratt Institute, and a Fullbright scholar at the Lodz Film School. She previously directed and produced the documentary Back to Gombin.

For more information, a preview of the movie, and an opportunity to contribute to this project, go to the film’s website.

Philadelphia Jewish Voice Gives Away Free Tickets to Jewtopia

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice will give away two pairs of free tickets to Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson’s film adaptation of their hit comedy Jewtopia, which premieres Friday. The movie stars Ivan Sergei, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Joel David Moore, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jon Lovitz and Rita Wilson.

In order to be able to win, just click here to sign yourself or a friend up for our free weekly newsletter. Use the comment field to indicate that you are interested in a pair of tickets. Two new subscribers will be chosen at random. Each will receive a pair of tickets, good to see the film at the AMC Theater in Plymouth Meeting, Monday-Thursday during the film’s run.

Plot summary follows the jump.
In the movie, Christian O’Connell (Ivan Sergei) has met the girl of his dreams in Alison Marks (Jennifer Love Hewitt). Unfortunately, Christian told Alison (who happens to be a rabbi’s daughter) that his name was Avi Rosenberg, and that he was Jewish — neither of which are true.

Desperate to keep up the illusion, he turns to his childhood best friend, Adam Lipschitz (Joel David Moore) to teach him how to “act Jewish.” But Adam has problems of his own, with a fiancé (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) pushing him closer to a mental breakdown as their wedding approaches.

With the best intentions, Adam and Christian attempt to help each other out, but things quickly go completely and hilariously off the rails.

First Israeli to Produce an Oscar-Winning Film Keeps Dreaming

In a year of acclaimed documentary films about the Middle East, Yael Melamede has achieved an unusual distinction: she is the first Israeli in the history of the Academy Awards to produce an Oscar-winning movie: Inocenete. The movie, which won the Oscar for best documentary short last February, is not about the Middle East. Its subject is a homeless teenager from San Diego with an outsize personality and an extraordinary artistic talent.

Melamede said:

We’ve seen such extraordinary work out of Israel in the past few years, films like Footnote, The Gatekeepers and Five Broken Cameras, which attest to the creativity and urgency of artistic voices in the region. I’m honored to be the first Israeli producer of an Oscar-winning movie, but I know I won’t be the last.

More after the jump.
Melamede was born and raised in New York City, and her parents are both Israeli: her mother is a renowned architect who designed Israel’s Supreme Court building, and her father was a businessman and former Israeli Air Force pilot, a veteran of the Six Day War. Melamede has produced both documentaries and independent feature projects, covering an eclectic range of topics.

Like many people from the Middle East, I straddle multiple cultures. Though our work covers varied topics and places, my choices are always informed by who I am and where I’m from.

Inocente began as a project about homeless teens, which Melamede embarked on with the directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine. The 40-minute film, which charts Inocente Izucar’s extraordinary life story, aired on MTV, receiving widespread media attention and rave reviews, and was screened to select audiences everywhere from Hollywood to Capitol Hill. Glamour magazine called the film “insanely inspiring.” Another of Inocente’s distinctions is to have been the first Oscar winner financed in part by an online Kickstarter campaign.

“My Architect,” Melamede’s first foray into documentaries, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004. It tells the story of the famous but elusive architect Louis Kahn through the eyes of his son Nathaniel. In addition to designing some projects in Israel, Kahn designed two buildings at Yale University, where Melamede was herself an architecture student; it was the perfect vehicle for Melamede’s transition from architect to filmmaker. In 2003, Melamede and Eva Kolodner founded Salty Features, with the goal of making “salty” films — films that were neither “sweet,” nor “sour.”

Among Melamede’s current projects is a reality television series entitled “Bad Habits,” being developed with Morgan Spurlock and inspired by the work of Dan Ariely, an acclaimed Israeli-American behavioral economist and bestselling author. Ariely’s work is also the impetus for Melamede’s directorial debut that’s currently in production: a feature documentary entitled Slippery Slopes.

During the next year, Melamede hopes to film in Israel her passion project: the adaptation of Amy Wilentz’s best-selling novel Martyrs’ Crossing, which delves into the harrowing personal struggles that result from the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A friend and colleague recently told me that I seem to be drawn to stories about people doing the impossible. I had never thought about it that way but it’s true. I am a fervent idealist and realist and a lot of that comes from my particular Israeli background.  I dream of being back in the running for an Academy Award, perhaps with a film from Israel.

Streit’s Matzo Raises Money for Documentary

— by Michael Levine

On Manhattan’s Lower East Side, in a series of four nondescript brick tenement buildings, sits the Streit’s Matzo factory. In 1925, when Aron Streit opened the factory’s doors, it sat at the heart of the nation’s largest Jewish immigrant community. Today, in its fifth generation of family ownership, in a rapidly gentrifying Lower East Side, it remains as the last family-owned matzo factory in America. This place is filled with history and tradition, and not only in the sense that the recipe for their product is 3,000 years old.

More after the jump.
The machinery still used here to bake and pack 40% of the nation’s matzo is as old as the factory itself. The owners still sit at their great-grandfathers’ desks, declining to clear the drawers of the contents left by their forbearers. They have, again and again, refused offers by developers for their real estate, and resisted modernizing the facility, worried of the potential effects on their fiercely loyal workforce, made of neighborhood residents and immigrants from around the world, many of whom have been working there for 30 years or more.  

And yet, while in many ways Streit’s may seem a relic from another age, they continue to thrive, consistently receiving more orders than they can fill.

In a neighborhood where the Jewish immigrants have long ago moved on, in a nation where progress and profits trump all else, where manufacturing has left the cities if not the country, where family businesses are bought out by giant corporations, and workers move from job to low-paying job, Streit’s remains a Lower East Side institution, and a glimmer of hope for the American Dream.

I’ve been working in documentary film and television (Showtime, A&E, History Channel, HGTV, and numerous independent projects) for the past nine years, and having deep family roots on the Lower East Side (my father’s side settled on Rivington Street in 1910), I am truly thrilled and honored to have a chance to make this film. It has been a dream of mine, for years, to tell this story, and seeing it come together has been nothing short of amazing. And while I’m at it, let me thank you again for your support! Your belief in this project is what promises to get me through all the sleepless nights of editing ahead — I’m so excited to get this film out into the world!

I’m also thrilled to be working on this project with the my producer, Michael Green, whose long and storied career in the world of food and drink (19 years at Gourmet Magazine, appearances on Food Network, Today Show, and much more), his experience as a producer across many forms of media, and his unwavering passion for this project, have made working on this film with him an extraordinary experience.

We are joining forces to create a film, a feature-length documentary, that will tell the story of Streit’s — of the factory, of the family, of its workers, of its place in the rich history of the Lower East Side and in America. It is a story of tradition, of resilience and resistance, of the perseverance of the Jewish people, and of immigrants of all faiths, so many of whom have found home in the Lower East Side, behind the doors of Streit’s, or in the matzo they bake.

In order to make this project possible, we are raising money with Kickstarter. So far, about 300 people have chosen to support us, and we have raised close to $30,000. Please help us reach our goal of $60,000.

UN-Supported Schools Preach “Armed Struggle” against Israel

— by Dave Bedein

Inside the UNRWA classroom, produced on location in the UNRWA refugee camps, represents the first time that the Center for Near East Policy Research crews gained direct access to teachers, principals and pupils in the UNRWA classrooms in Nablus, Jerusalem and Gaza.

In this film, UNRWA teachers and students speak openly about what they are taught in UNRWA schools — to devote their lives to the “Right of Return” to villages lost in 1948 (within the Green Line — not in the West Bank and Gaza) through the “armed struggle.”

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